CNN just loves the charismatic movement in Brazil

This segment has it all: happy Catholic crowds dancing to pop music, priests leaping and jumping to the beat, while across town bored, thin, and yawning congregations endure stodgy liturgy at the older parishes. It’s such an archetype — and this kind of story has been the media narrative for about half a century! — that it is hard to know what is true and what is not.

That said, let’s just grant that the charismatic movement brings a certain conviction to the liturgy that the mainstream of liturgical life lacks. I can easily see this. Even if the story is agenda driven, there is truth here. Boredom at liturgy is a common feature of Catholic life. The question is: what direction should we go to change this? What is the right way out?

As I look at these images, I try to replace them in my mind with a serious presentation of traditional Catholic forms including the sung Mass, chant rendered with confidence, organ, incense, a celebrant who sings his parts, beautiful vesture, and the use of Latin. Would this approach be as effective in engaging the people who are currently attached to these party-like gatherings?

I would think so, but the basis would be different. There would be a central focus on truth rather than entertainment, interior examination rather than exterior emotional outbursts, a reflection on personal faith rather than the personality of the priest.

Thoughts welcome.

32 Replies to “CNN just loves the charismatic movement in Brazil”

  1. Interesting. The "entertainment" and "having a great time" at church service was exactly the things that drove my husband and me away from the non-denominational Protestant church. What drew us to the Catholic Church was the liturgy–it's beauty, it's seriousness, it's reverance. What drew us even deeper was the traditional Latin Mass. There seems to me a danger in trying to go from one spiritual high to another, depending solely upon our emotions to bring us closer to Christ. There will be a time when our emotions let us down. What then? Leave the Truth because it no longer "excites" us? Because we no longer "feel" amazing after Mass? Our faith has to be based on more than mere emotions, good times, and the promise of prayers answered to our liking.

  2. Jamie:
    1. That message hasn't gotten through to Brazil yet.

    2. Remember further, this is part of CNN's way of Shaping the Narrative. What you describe goes against The Narrative.

  3. This (Mass should be 'entertaining') is actually a serious problem, and I think is an example of subtle anti-Catholicism. The message is this: YOU should be entertained, religion (any religion, because, darn it, they're all the same…) makes YOU feel good! There's no mention of morality, right/wrong, or sense of tradition in these televised blips.

    The solution? I think a little old-fashioned education on why things (singing/chanting, use of Latin, incense, vestments) are done/used is in order. So many priests like to ad lib a little greeting anyway. Why not take a sentence or two to explain: The use of singing elevates the parts of the Mass. I'll sing my parts; sing your part when you are able. (Pause) The Lord be with you, etc.

    This is a little short, but I've my two sons running round here. Looking forward to hearing from the usual suspects.

  4. It's the cult of personality. When he was processing with the Eucharist in the monstrance they were talking about 'him' instead of emphasizing worship of the physical presence of the Lord among them. I think 'they' know what was happening. The reporter obviously didn't. I wouldn't like this form of 'liturgy,' but I know charismatics who do.

  5. Fr. Rossi is actually well known in Brazil as well as Portugal. He's a kind of "media sensation". Also, Brazil's version of EWTN is a CCR run enterprise, so don't be surprised to see a lot of CCR stuff.

  6. "It's the cult of personality."

    ^^THIS. I've been to two charismatic retreats and what struck me the most was how it was a breeding ground for aggressive personalities to dominate. Yes, I can already hear someone objecting, "But not ALL charismatic events are like that!" Yes, and smoking while pumping gas in your car won't always result in a station engulfed in flames.

  7. The incredible surpise: when you give the TLM a chance, you still can become connected and intellectually and spiritually drawn in.

  8. In defense of the Charismatics, the "traditional" OF Mass lacks the sensory experience, the aura of Heaven, the sense of the sacred, that make the Mass "work." In some ways, the OF (not it's inherent structure, but the abuses it opens itself to and that are almost omnipresent with it), by flattening out the vertical dimension, makes itself "boring" and lends itself to being supplemented with charismatic elements. What we need is to continue with the Reform of the Reform, to make the OF Mass look and feel less like entertainment and more like the EF.

  9. So its about the good entertainment…I cant remember once hearing that it was about Jesus. What has the mass become? We have turned in word on ourselves, can these people really be called Catholics? Who do they come to see at the liturgy/rock show?

  10. On top of all our other PR problems, we do also have an inadequate visual, in the videosphere: people who are recollected do not obviously appear to be engaged. People who are clapping and hopping about do appear to be engaged.

    When people are recollected, though, if you're there, you can feel it. There's a hush that falls, a living silence.

    Hebrews says that the two-edged sword of the spirit can divide anything. CNN is by nature a blunt instrument. It seems a losing battle, unless we can come up with flashy visuals of our own.

  11. Brazil Catholicism is in a free-fall towards Evangelical Protestantism which promises instant material rewards on this earth, a sort of Calvinistic "sign" that you will be saved in heaven. With so much poverty in South America (and in the world), it is very attractive to the desperate.
    This Charismatic movement in Catholicism is an attempt to counter-act this using some of the style and techniques of those Protestants. It may not be what many here would like for a Mass, I myself preferring this be done outside the liturgy, but it appeals to many, in fact their only remaining contact with the Church.
    Pope Francis is a blessing in this regard, reminding us that we must help the poor of this world, a poverty that for many in the "advanced countries" is so alien to fathom.
    The problem is not so much with the liturgy as with the poverty because of those that offer questionable theological solutions to that poverty.

  12. It may be a much smaller group, but the Traditional Latin Mass is well attended by young people here, who enthusiastically promote regular and special events via Facebook. I am part of a small group training like crazy in Gregorian chant, under the very welcome tutelage of a teacher with 30 years experience. The priests from Campos offer multiple Traditional Latin Masses throughout Rio each week, and will be offering daily TLMs and Catechism at the beautiful old church of Antiga Sé downtown during World Youth Day (English schedule link:…. The Charismatic style is quite popular, but fairly easily avoided in a city of hundreds of churches, most offering multiple Masses per day. Early morning Masses are often geared towards Religious, and tend to be conservative and reflective. Not nearly as interesting for TV coverage, but powerful and beautiful to attend.

  13. The Council of Journalists marches forward for what is accepted unquestionably as catechesis.

  14. Fr. Rossi is a local celebrity with a pronounced narcissistic streak who promotes a so-called byzantine rosary, a privately-funded and built sanctuary of the same name (Terço Bizantino) and produces soap-opera quality popular movies – a tad creepy IMHO, judge for yourself, here
    Undoubtedly there are as many poorly-catechized cultural Catholics in the Southern hemisphere as there are closer to home in the Northern hemisphere, but I would be wary of exaggerating a role for liturgical tradition based on a NorthernEuropean-oriented tradition of chant (Solesmes) when perhaps a renewal of the sources found in the cantor traditions of levantine-linked Mozarabic rites (URL not an endorsement of implied religiosity; Google hit for purposes of context)
    might make for a better fit to the virile temperament (and perceived lack of same in Fr Rossi's hi-sentiment-leaning ie female congregations) of the region while staking out a much-needed witness to the ancient roots of the faith in semitic cultural expressions of religiosity in solidarity with the faithful in the warring neighborhoods of Syria?

  15. Asked a little differently:

    Would 'a serious presentation of traditional Catholic forms including the sung Mass, chant rendered with confidence, organ, incense, a celebrant who sings his parts, beautiful vesture, and the use of Latin…be as effective in engaging the people'


    The truths of the faith do not require:
    a) sung parts
    b) Latin
    c) vesture
    d) chant
    e) organ

    or for that matter

    f) celibacy (see the Ordinariate for Anglican converts, including clergy, also see the Eastern Catholic churches)

    I am firmly convinced that a-f are impediments to successful evangelization of the modern sort (i.e, not backed up by the state or by the sword).

  16. You misunderstand the liturgy, it is not a means to an end (even the end of evangelization) it is an end in itself. The Mass is not a tool to spread the faith (although it can do that) it is an act of worship, the re-presentation of the sacrifice of the Son to the Father in the Spirit, and as such it cannot be used to further some other end. The moment you try to use the Mass, you destroy it, reducing it from right ordered worship to a mere utilitarian event.

  17. I'm a Charismatic Catholic in the US and the deeply Charismatic Masses I've occasionally gone to have been extremely enthusiastic for the Eucharist. People are full of praise for Jesus who is truly present with us after the Consecration. The music is more upbeat generally, but it is the enthusiasm of the congregation for what is happening on the altar that makes a Charismatic Mass truly Charismatic.

  18. I am a proud traditional Catholic who graduated with my degree in theology and later secondary education from Franciscan University of Steubenville. I will offer this: There have been many problems with liturgy for years. Priests and religious have done things there own way and have ignored rubrics. To the degree that Mass has become a fun for all and a what is in it for me type of activity rather than giving our adoration, praise, prayers and supplication to God. The Mass in Latin, Novos Ordo, or Charismatic Form can be good and can elevate us to the transcendent. I have witnessed powerful prayer, preaching and reverence at all types of Masses whether they were at my parish, af Franciscan University, a shrine or another Church. Peter Cole Franciscan University Class of 1995- BA. 2001 MS in Secondary Education

  19. Reality says otherwise. When you look at poster dioceses that are famous for being lackadaisical or even having outright hostility to a through f, we find that their Mass attendance numbers are bottom of the barrel, they are closing schools and parishes faster than if the buildings were on fire, and vocations have all but dried up. Contrast that with dioceses that have not only re-affirmed and recaptured traditional Catholic distinctives, but also emphasizes no-baloney in preaching the "hard teachings", these dioceses are flourishing. Orthodoxy, evangelization and the so-called "non-required" things go hand in hand.

  20. I notice the big papal Masses are mostly in Portuguese, although the congregation are expected to know the Gloria, Sanctus , Agnus Dei and Pater Noster in Latin. I wouldn't even know how to pronounce Portuguese, but I understand the translation is as approximate as was the now-discarded English version. The big question is, are they going to break out the drums and liturgical dancers as in the glory days of JP II? According to Piero Marini he actually liked this sort of thing.

    When Benedict XVI beatified Newman at Cofton Park in 2010 the organizers had commissioned music from local composers in the style that had accompanied JPII's 1982 visit. Enter Guido Marini and we got James MacMillan's Mass, plus large measures of chant and polyphony. He also informed them that at all his Masses the HF would use Latin from the Preface to the Pater Noster. I wish I could have seen the look on their faces.

  21. I don't think any of us here doubt the sincerity of Charismatic Catholics which is a praiseworthy thing. The problem is that worship based mostly on showy emotionalism or sentimentality isn't very deep and tends to flame out quickly because emotions are fickle. There is a whole history of Protestant revival stuff that bears this lesson out.

  22. Here is a comment about Protestantism at another site I think pertinent:

    "The new rituals seem to go by this peer pressure principle also. Quakers have to go to meeting sometimes and listen to each other’s inspirations. A Pentecostal who doesn’t speak in tongues or manifest a spiritual gift pretty darned quick is apt to be ostracized, to the point that people make them up so as not to be public countercases to the inevitability of the sacrament. There’s snake handling, deliverance prayers, anointing things with oil for various blessings and exorcisms, and the various ritual practices of church suppers and formal mandatory Bible study. People tend to cram huge amounts of significance into what started as simple devotional practices, openness towards signs, or social events. If you take stuff away, people go get something else.

    Interestingly, this can happen in Catholic parishes too. If some of the Sacraments are less available, and if people never get together (except maybe for sports) or have devotional practices outside Mass, a parish tends to try to cram everything else into Mass, whether or not this is conducive to the actual Mass. It’s Mass as kitchen sink."

    I can't help but think that much of the Charismatic movement is an attempt to get something people should have access to outside of Mass.

  23. I think they mean Catholic Charismatic Renewal. But it would probably be more Catholic if it were run by Creedence Clearwater Revival. As it stands, there's a lot of bad moons rising there.

  24. Sorry, folks, but this IS the reality of the Catholic Church: the rapid spread of the charismatic movement and other similar new movements (e.g. Neo Catechumenal Way) and the continuing surge of praise and worship music into Catholic worship. Outside of some regions in the USA and a few rare holdouts in Europe, the "reform of the reform" in music and worship is pretty much nonexistent.

    One of the most dangerous tendencies in the Catholic Trad / conservative blogosphere is its tendency to report to death the events in a handful of conferences and handful of parishes and present these as THE dominant trend in the worldwide Church, while the reality is different.

  25. If your analysis is correct, and I were thirty years younger, then my days as a practising Catholic would be numbered.

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